The SW Summary: On biochar for healthier soils, California’s drought, alternative yeasts for reduced sulfites, and more

By Hanna Halmari
Biochar and alternative plant species to build resilient vineyard soils

Winetitles Media highlights the latest recipient of Wine Australia’s Dr Tony Jordan OAM Award 2022, PhD candidate Kate Kingston at Griffith University. Ms Kingston received the award to support her research in innovative biochar-based technologies aimed at helping the Australian wine industry adapt to impacts of climate change. Her research “will examine the use of biochar in combination with the planting of Australian native legume plants to boost soil microbial activity,”  build resilient vineyard soils, and improve vine health.

Ms Kingston explains how “biochar boosts soil microbial function and plant health,” which “will help improve plant resilience to pests, disease” and “extreme climatic events.” The addition of native legume plants can “provide an organic form of nitrogen that soil microbes can transform into plant-available ammonium.” This in turn can decrease the vineyard’s fertilisation costs and “loss of nitrogen as a pollutant from the system.” Read more here.

California’s third consecutive year of drought 

Meininger’s Wine Business International reports on “another drought year in California.” According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the state will experience “even drier” months up to the end of June. The NOAA US Drought Monitor recently announced that 93% of California is in “a severe drought,” of which 35% are in “extreme drought.” Grape growers are not only faced with the risks of reduced irrigation water supplies and the threat of deadly wildfires, but “the readiness of big companies to source cheap wine from outside the US” too. Read more here.

Accolade Wines pilots first ever closed-loop wine distribution program

Australian Accolade Wines has partnered up with ecoSPIRITS to launch the world’s first circular wine distribution program. As reported in Winetitles Media, Accolade’s leading wine brand Banrock Station will launch a trial of ecoSPIRIT’s circular wine packaging technology for on-premise customers. Instead of packaging the wine in individual standard wine bottles, the wine will be “transported and delivered to venues in ecoSPIRITS’ ecoTOTE format, a fully reusable 4.5-Litre glass container.” At the venues, it will be “dispensed and re-bottled using ecoSPIRITS’ SmartPour technology.” The ecoTOTES will then be sanitized and refilled “in line with bottling standards of leading organic and biodynamic wine certifications.” The circular program will reduce both the costs and carbon-footprint of participating on-premise venues. 

Read more on the new circular wine technology here.

“Fighting fire with fire—or microbes with microbes” to reduce sulfite use

As “an effective antibacterial and antioxidant agent,” sulfur dioxide (sulfites) is commonly added during the winemaking process to stabilize and preserve the wine. The recent trend of natural wine has given sulfites a bad name, but beyond the over-exaggerated claims of sulfite headaches, many winemakers are looking to reduce their use of SO2. In SevenFifty Daily Rémy Charest explores the potential of alternative yeasts as a means for doing so.

Charest discusses a different approach called bioprotection, based on “[getting] more microbial life going early on, as an active protection system.” The addition of alternative “non-Saccharomyces yeasts such as Torulaspora delbrueckii (Td) and Metschnikowia pulcherrima (Mp)” at the beginning of vinification has shown to reduce the amount of bacteria present in the wine. Charest quotes Jeremy Leffert, director of winemaking for Californian Tooth and Nail Winery, who explains how “by having these yeasts occupy the space that bacteria could occupy in a low-alcohol environment, you can delay SO2 additions much further down the line.” Read more here.

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About the author

Hanna Halmari

Hanna Halmari is the editor at Sustainable Wine and the head of conferences at Innovation Forum. Hanna specialises in sustainability research and events across various industries. She holds an MSc in international development from Kings’s College London, where she developed a strong interest in political economy and post-communist transformation. Hanna speaks Finnish, Bulgarian and English. In her spare time she is a dedicated Radio Lollipop volunteer at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, enjoys travelling, and tasting new wines.